For many decades, the various Chinese military forces used an interesting variety of different weapons. Some purchased under contract, some locally manufactured, and some captured. One such captured weapon was the Type 38 Arisaka rifle. The Japanese lost a significant number of them in China, and they were not overlooked by their captors. Once China had adopted the SKS and then AK as front-line weapons, a large number of captured Type 38s were converted to use the standard 7.62x39mm cartridge.
I like the idea of a nice light carbine in that caliber, but what makes these guns particularly interesting to me is the variety of ways the conversion was done. Some guns were converted in batches by decently equipped shops, while others were made in a much more independent, ad hoc manner. We have photos of two converted Type 38s, one relatively typical and one less so:
The top rifle is of the most common type, converted as part of a fairly organized effort. The bottom one is much more like a field conversion. The major element in both conversions was replacement of the original barrel with an SKS barrel, but clearly done in different ways. The more official guns had the triangular Arisaka front sights put back on the new barrels, while the more unique gun used the SKS barrel complete with bayonet, front stock cap, and bayonet.
The other major element of a caliber conversion like this is the magazine, and there were several techniques for doing this. Some rifles simply had no changed made to the magazine. Some, including our top one, used a sheet metal stop and notched follower to hold the 7.62 rounds in the rear of the magazine. Others, including our bottom one, used a shortened follower and block in the back of the magazine to hold the rounds to the front.
The bolts and extractors were not modified as part of these conversions, and they work pretty well with the 7.62 cartridge. I spent some time at the range with the top rifle, and it never failed to extract. It would occasionally fail to feed or drop an empty case before reaching the ejector if I did not operate the bolt smoothly. Interestingly, no effort appears to have been made to regulate the sights for the conversion, as the rifle I was shooting was about 3 inches high at 25 yards and a good 2 feet high at 200 yards (at the lowest sight setting).
Finally, it is interesting (to me, anyway) to note that the bottom rifle has a handmade stock. It has a slightly different contour, no characteristic splice in the butt, and is pretty crudely relieved under the action. It also has a rear sight from a different model of Type 38, and has been cleanly scrubbed of Japanese insignia (though the serial number was left intact).
To see all the photos of both rifles, please take a look at the Chinese Arisakas page in the Vault. Thanks to Doss White at the Banzai newsletter, we also have reprinted with permission an article by Kevin Carney which goes into more detail on the different varieties of Chinese converted Arisakas known to exist. For folks particularly interested in Japanese rifles, the Banzai newsletter is an excellent source of information, and I definitely recommend checking it out.